Store manager Robert Everhart uses an electronic cigarette at MadVapes… (Diedra Laird / Charlotte…)
Fearing a proliferation of electronic cigarettes, Seal Beach is on the brink of being one of the first cities to place restrictions on the smoking devices.
The City Council is expected to discuss a citywide moratorium on any new smoke shops at its meeting Monday night. The ordinance follows “a number of inquiries” from prospective business owners.
Jim Basham, Seal Beach director of community development, said the urgency ordinance would give the city time to research the potential effect of e-cigarettes and what restrictions could be placed on the sale of the devices.
“Whenever you have something that becomes very popular, you don’t want proliferation to occur,” Basham said.
“It’s not my intention to outright ban them," he said, "but I need to better understand the potential impacts that can occur if we do have these types of smoking establishments in our city.”
The ordinance would place a 45-day freeze on permits and business licenses for e-cigarettes and smoke shops, Basham said, with the possibility of extending it to a year.
E-cigarettes give users a dose of nicotine in vapor form without emitting smoke.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates but hasn’t approved e-cigarettes, said the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes has not been fully studied. Consumers have no way of knowing if the devices are safe to use as intended or how much nicotine or chemicals are being inhaled, the agency said.
A Senate bill introduced in February would extend existing restrictions on smoking tobacco products to e-cigarettes. Seal Beach staff said they would monitor the bill.
Laguna Beach struck down a law that would have included e-cigarettes in tobacco restrictions.
Seal Beach hasn’t given a license or permit to a smoke store, but Seal Beach Corner Shop sells e-cigarettes. Basham said the business would be part of the city's inquiry, as well as liquor stores and gas stations that sell the devices.
“We’ll be researching that business because it didn’t start off being a tobacco store, but it looks like it’s turning into one,” Basham said. “It’s supposed to be a gift shop.”
The business opened in 2010. An employee at Seal Beach Corner Shop said the owner was not available for comment.
The city’s review would look into banning e-cigarettes from areas where cigarettes are prohibited.
“One restriction can be they cannot be close to a school because minors could be getting a hold of this product,” Basham said.
But the move would be premature, said Ray Story, chief executive of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Assn., a Washington-based trade group that promotes the use of electronic cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco products.
"The FDA is not going to be ready in 45 days to provide the necessary answers they need," Story said. "Just as they tried in Laguna Beach not too long ago, the problem is they're looking to ban e-cigarettes but allowing conventional cigarettes to be sold elsewhere."